Miami Dolphins

Injuries force a line shuffle for Miami Dolphins’ third preseason game

Offensive lineman Branden Albert at practice at the Miami Dolphins training facility on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 in Davie.
Offensive lineman Branden Albert at practice at the Miami Dolphins training facility on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 in Davie. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

First things first: Ryan Tannehill expects to play Saturday, no matter who lines up at left tackle.

Even if that means his blindside is protected by Aundrey Walker, a third-stringer who’s a long shot to even make the team.

“Injuries are a part of the game and, like it or not, that’s just kind of the way it is,” Tannehill said Tuesday. “That’s the risk you take when you play this game. Our guys are stepping up, guys are working hard and people are going to have opportunities, and I want to see them take advantage of it.”

Under normal circumstances, it would be unthinkable to even ask a healthy starting quarterback if he is going to participate in a third preseason game. This is the week that the first string traditionally plays until halftime — if not beyond.

But these are no normal circumstances.

Though Branden Albert had a breakthrough Tuesday — he said before practice that he expected to be full-go for the first time since tearing his ACL — the likelihood of him playing Saturday is slim.

Miami Dolphins Branden Albert talks about returning to play after a season-ending injury last year during Dolphins practice Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, in Davie, Fla. Teammates Ryan Tannehill and Ja'Wuan James also comment on Albert's return for the 2

And Jason Fox has yet to be cleared medically after sustaining a concussion in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Saturday.

Those injuries could leave the team making the best of a bad decision. The most likely scenario: moving Dallas Thomas, who is finally making strides at left guard, over to left tackle, at least for a week. But remember, Thomas struggled when asked to play right tackle after Albert’s injury last year.

“Every game plan we ever put in, before we put any passes in, are the protections,” Joe Philbin said. “It’s always a consideration.”

When asked if he expects Tannehill to play at all behind a makeshift line, Philbin responded: “We haven’t decided anything. We’ve got to get through the practice week first. But I expect him to play, I expect the guys that are healthy to play.”

If the Dolphins move Thomas — which offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said earlier this summer he hoped not to do — they will do so with newfound confidence in his abilities at left guard.

Miami Herald's Miami Dolphins reporter Adam Beasley recaps the Dolphins practice Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, in Davie, Fla. Video by Charles Trainor Jr. / Miami Herald Staff

Film study after a game hasn’t always been kind to Thomas, but it was this week. Thomas said coaches told him he played “great” against the Panthers.

The Dolphins need more of it. Lots more. Evan Mathis is no longer an option.

The veteran guard, linked to the Dolphins the last few months, signed with the Broncos late Tuesday.

So barring a surprise trade, the Dolphins will likely start Thomas at left guard and Billy Turner at right. Turner, who is ahead of rookie Jamil Douglas on the depth chart (as of now), struggled in the team's preseason game Saturday.

When asked if the Dolphins have enough talent on their roster to enter the season, Turner responded:

“It depends on who you are and who you ask. The guys that we have on the team are capable of taking this team to the highest point possible, I think. I think other guys would agree too.”

As for Albert, Philbin said it was “great” to get his star tackle back on the practice field. Philbin didn’t see everything Albert did Tuesday, but did catch a couple of the offensive lineman’s pass-rush one-on-one repetitions.

“One of the reps was OK; the other one looked very, very good,” Philbin said.

Albert was among the last players off the field Tuesday; not only did he do “pretty much” everything during practice, according to Philbin, the offensive line had to run gassers afterwards.

“I just want to be out there with my teammates,” Albert said beforehand. “I’m tired of being inside. I’m tired of watching.”

Albert acknowledged he was “a little nervous” for Tuesday’s practice; it was the most he had done on the field since tearing multiple ligament in his right knee in November.

Most expect him to be ready for the regular-season opener on Sept. 13, but Albert would not commit to that timeline Tuesday, saying “only time will tell.”

Albert added: “That was my first injury. It was unexpected. I didn’t understand why it happened to me. But things happened. I had to get over it. Be a professional about it and move on. Now we’re here nine months later, I’m back playing football again, and that’s all that matters.”

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